Why Are They Destroying Oxford’s Beautiful, Iconic Shoreline?

By Jan Greenhawk

November 29, 2023

The First in a Series of Articles on the Shoreline “Restoration” Taking Place in Oxford, Maryland

The little town of Oxford was once called the “colonial capital of Maryland.” Since its existence in the 1600’s, its shoreline on the Tred Avon River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, has supported many watermen who worked on the water throughout the year. In more recent times, its beautiful streets, especially the Strand which rises from the river, have attracted tourism. Not the big, flashy tourism of shop filled towns like St. Michaels or crowded beach towns such as Ocean City, but the quiet, peaceful tourism of a town where one can walk the streets without bumping into others or fighting traffic.

The aforementioned Strand shoreline was one of the hallmarks of this tourism. One could walk along the small sidewalk above the stone abutment that holds back the river or sit in a lawn chair and watch the boats go by or be amazed by the amazing sunsets. At the end of the Strand was a tiny beach that attracted families in the summer.

No more.

Nowadays, people are riding up and down the Strand to view something else. The town administration is calling it the “Oxford Shoreline Improvements.” It’s being done on a million dollar grant from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the National Wildlife Federation. From where many people sit, these don’t look like improvements at all.

Here is how the Oxford Shoreline looked prior to the project. This picture was taken from the Town’s website.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Here are some others:

Here is what it looks like now as the project begins.

Sand dunes next to the road and extension of the sand beach well past where it had been.

More extension of the beach and creation of huge dunes.

This is what that once gorgeous shoreline looks like now.

While many of the above pictures were taken while work was being done, here is the “concept picture” of the “Dynamic Living Shorelines” project funded by a grant from the Department of Natural Resources and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This is the project that will change, and destroy, the iconic Strand of Oxford forever. As the Oxford Town Manager said, “The living shoreline and breakwaters will give us the ability to push the land out a little bit.” This will provide more beach area, crowds, and a sandy expansion most people in town, especially the Strand, don’t want.

As one homeowner said, “I didn’t buy my home to live near a beach.”

Concept (36×60) (oxfordmd.net)

This picture shows the addition of a long jetty and then what are called ” Living Islands” in front of a large sand dune and an extension of the beach. In reality, the beach will stretch farther than what is depicted in the picture above. Here is an enlarged picture of this concept as created in other locations:

“Living Islands” is the latest thing in shore restoration. No more do designers merely want to prevent destruction of the shore, now they want to create “natural” solutions that totally sculpt the shore into something nature didn’t create. That, of course, means artificial manmade islands that are anything but natural.

No more of Oxford’s beautiful uninterrupted waters occasionally populated by sailboats.

Why is this being done? It’s partially the fear of “sea rise” and “climate change.” Or at least that is the reason they give.

From the Oxford webpage description of the project: Due to sea level rise and increasing storm intensity, this area of Oxford has taken a beating over the last many years raising multiple concerns, from the continuation of one of Oxford’s most valued assets, its historic sandy beach, to protection of critical public infrastructure, including the road, water, sewer, electricity, telephone and cable, the ability to provide emergency services during tidal and storm events, and the ability to protect historic residential and commercial properties from the encroaching waters.

After reading this, one would think that the Strand area is the only area in Oxford that suffers consistent tidal flooding. This is untrue. More on that later.

In a town meeting in 2021, the Town Manager stated that this project will not achieve the goal of stopping town tidal flooding.

From January 2021 Oxford Town Commissioner minutes: It was noted this project would not prevent elevated tidal flooding, which takes place on the backside of the Strand parking lot and along private properties, the project is intended to reduce damage to the exposed northern side and the fragile infrastructure found along this northern edgeCommissioners-Minutes-012621.pdf (oxfordmd.net)

Seems like extreme actions when it won’t prevent “elevated tidal flooding” but will merely “reduce” damage to the exposed northern side. One may assume that is the beach and the private property at its end. An Oxford landmark destroyed for little return and at the expense of other, more needy parts of town. An improvement to a private property provided by public grant funds.

From a February, 2021 Oxford Town Commissioner’s MeetingShe (Town Manager Cheryl Lewis) also noted that the town experiences tidal and stormwater flooding throughout town and that this project is only looking at the northern edge of the town and the solutions developed here will not solve all of the town’s problems. This project is just one piece of a bigger picture and is one-step towards the preservation of the town for the next 50 to 100 years. She explained that a good deal of effort is spent convincing State funders that Oxford intends to be around in 100 and 200 years, and that after the first 300 years there is no plan to throw in the towel now. Sea level rise is going to require a lot of adapting in order for Oxford to continue to exist in the future, and with 330 years of past success, forwarding thinking planning only seems natural. Commissioners-Minutes-020921.pdf (oxfordmd.net)

It’s curious that the Town Manager stated that the town had “no plan to throw in the towel now” and that “state funders” had to be convinced of that. I wonder if not throwing in the towel includes destroying landmarks just to get state funding.

The implication is that there will be more projects to come, but it seems those projects have been bumped to the back of the line while this one has taken precedence. It’s odd that the flooding of the end of the Strand wasn’t a major focus for the town until about 2018, right about the time the Maryland Department of Natural Resources was ready to give Oxford big money for a solution of this type.

Was this project a “solution” looking for a problem? Is it an expensive test case that will be used as advertising for others? Are the citizens of Oxford participating in a big environmental experimental without knowing it?

Grant writers, developers and government agencies like the Maryland Department of National Resources love solutions like this one. They like big, intrusive plans that cost tons of money and create drastic change. They like showy projects that get the attention of people who don’t have to live with them. A few projects like Oxford’s can generate more projects in the same mold, thus more money.

Let’s not forget the money those in the shoreline/environmental restoration business like Underwood and Associates make from offering these over designed projects exchanging beautiful shorelines for a jumble of unnatural islands and breakwaters. They are attractive to the crowd who applauds projects that supposedly protect nature while actually destroying what was created naturally. These are projects businesses and government agencies can take pictures of to advertise to other costumers. These are the projects that get town administration publicity, like in this National Wildlife Federation Blog:

An Interview with Cheryl Lewis, Town Manager of Oxford, Maryland – The National Wildlife Federation Blog (nwf.org)

The strangest statement of the National Wildlife Federation article is the statement, “Oxford intends to be around in 100 and 200 years, and that after the first 300 years there is no plan to throw in the towel now.” I’m not sure where that statement came from or why Lewis decided to include it, but it seems she is trying justify this drastic destruction of the historic Strand to save the town hundreds of years in the future. It’s amazing the town survived over 300 years without intervention, isn’t it?

Other parts of town that are actually flooded during heavy rains have no current plans or grants in the works for their restoration or protection. It’s as though they don’t matter. Ask anyone in the “Park” section of town or those living on Bank Street, Pier Street, Mill Street and Tilghman Street who have dealt with tidal flooding consistently over the past 40 years. Most notably, the Causeway, the main entrance to the town, floods at high tides, full moons and during heavy rain. Response from the Town of Oxford? A few promises of fixes in the future and mostly crickets. After all, the town needs to save the Strand Beach at all costs. The citizens? They are told they should lift their houses and buy more flood insurance.

Flooding on Bank Street in Oxford

Mild Flooding at the Causeway- it usually crosses the road. This is the main entrance to town.

Pier Street

Intersection of Morris and South Morris Street

Willows Avenue (area of the town known as “the Park.”)

The Strand (2018)- The Strand does flood, but mainly during large storms and not nearly as much as the rest of the town.

In the NWF article Lewis acknowledges that there were other options available:

You have people that are fine with a nature-based approach, and just as many who say something like a sea wall would work a lot better. And sure, a sea wall might work well under some circumstances, in some places. But there are things we need in Oxford that hardened infrastructure like that just wouldn’t provide—first and foremost, protection of our public beach.

I thought the point was to prevent flooding and infrastructure destruction. Clearly, she thinks the beach is the most important thing. After all, it is now being extended well past where it originally was.

Many in town disagree with the “living islands” approach. One longtime resident stated, “The problem could have been solved by lifting the roadway of the Strand, the parking lot, and strengthening the bulkhead on the wall with additional rip rap where the beach is.”

Another description of the project:

In coordination with the town’s partners in this project, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Coastal Restoration Services, the National Wildlife Federation and the awarded engineering firm, Underwood and Associates, the town has developed designs that will incorporate natural marshy areas to act as breakwaters in protecting the Strand, along with dunes to prevent waters from overrunning the road and is currently submitting these designs for permitting review by state and federal agencies for future construction.

I’m not sure they understand the meaning of “natural.” According to the dictionary, it means, “existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind.” The marshy areas being created, along with the five foot “dunes” mentioned, would not naturally occur at this spot on the Strand.

As for sand dunes, they can cause as many problems as they may potentially solve. First, the establishment of sand dunes is a time-consuming process. This means that newly placed dunes will be subject to as much or more erosion as the original shoreline. They require constant maintenance and replenishment, which is expensive for communities to fund. There are limited plant options available in harsh climates and the dunes themselves may disrupt and destroy the natural habitat of some species.

Even the man made “living islands” will require monitoring to make sure they actually work and withstand “sea rise.” Once again, they must be maintained perpetually. Will the Town of Oxford perpetually be bound to sand dune and “living island” protection costs? It’s a strong possibility.

Moreover, pumping millions of cubic yards of sand onto beaches can cause environmental damage, according to decades of studies. It kills wildlife scooped up from the ocean floor and smothers mole crabs and other creatures where sand is dumped, said Robert Young, a geology professor at Western Carolina University.

It seems this small area has been deemed a priority in the continued fight against flooding in Oxford while much larger and crucial areas which are consistently flooded and affect so many more people are virtually ignored or put at the end of the timetable.

Why was this project chosen first? After all, shouldn’t there be a comprehensive town plan to manage flooding that lists priority areas like the Causeway and the area of the Post Office?

The survey below regarding flooding in Oxford, conducted in 2012, doesn’t even mention the Strand as a flood concern or a concern at all. Odd that Lewis conducted and commented on these responses but then went on to promote the Strand as a priority in 2018. What were the real priorities for this decision? Money? Tourism? Notoriety?

Oxford Stormwater and Flood Management – M.MOAM.INFO

The Town Manager sold the concept to the Commissioners, and they voted to approve it on April 27, 2021. Citizen participation at the meeting was severely limited to virtual by the restriction against live attendance at town meetings due to “Covid.”

Motion passed. Commissioners-Minutes-042721.pdf (oxfordmd.net)

On that day, the Town of Oxford, whose quiet beauty has brought tourists here for years, had its beautiful Strand needlessly destroyed.

One lifetime resident addressed this work on the Strand, ” Remember this; hunting for sea glass, wading with your kids, swimming even at low tide…no longer. Now you will have walking up and over berms, no more sea glass and probably not a chance to fish anymore. The bulkhead where people tried to fish is now buried. “The Strand” is no longer the iconic historic area it used to be.”

One wonders why there wasn’t a less destructive solution than the one currently employed, one that would maintain the strand shoreline and its character while still protecting that section of the road, the parking lot etc. from flooding. Lack of imagination? Apathy to the beauty of The Strand and what it means to the citizens of Oxford?

I was once told that many bureaucrats consider themselves special people who think that they, and they alone, know what is right for the people they serve. They don’t even feel they need to listen to the public or solicit ideas from the people they serve. It’s a very special kind of arrogance. As a local bureaucrat once said, ” I can tell these people anything, and they will believe it and go along with it. “

Time to stop going along with it. It is probably too late to save our beloved Oxford Strand. Maybe we can save other iconic parts of Oxford from this type of destruction.

  1. “A Never-Ending Commitment”: The High Cost of Preserving Vulnerable Beaches — ProPublica

NOTES: The next few articles in this series will examine the history of this project, why certain decisions might have been made and the consequences.


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Oxford Elites Circle The Wagons: What Are They Hiding?

By Jan Greenhawk

November 20, 2023

This post can be originally found on eastongazette.com

What would Robert Morris do?

Portrait of Robert Morris, c. 1782 by Charles Willson Peale

For almost a year a majority of citizens in the small town of Oxford, Maryland, have been demanding change and transparency in their town government. Their questions and demands have initiated the development of a hiring policy to assure ethical hiring practices, an election to add a resolution for a special election to replace Town Commissioners when they leave office early, the actual election of a new Commissioner, and many inquiries about the questionable sudden retirement of the police chief and other town employees. Citizens are getting involved in town government and are demanding answers and ethics in their town government.

You would think that local government and the other citizens of Oxford would appreciate the participation of the other residents of the town. Not so.

The authoritarian people who have controlled Oxford for so long are pushing back, afraid of losing their power over town government. They seem to be afraid of transparency and citizen involvement. They have forgotten who government works for; not just the wealthy and influential, but the citizens. They are “circling the wagons” in an attempt to shut down those asking questions.

In a recent town meeting (which was standing room only) one citizen, a local architect and member of the “status quo crowd” wrote a letter to the town entitled, “What Would Robert Morris Do?” It was read by the President of the Town Commissioners, Tom Costigan. In it, the man accused all of the citizens asking questions of being “divisive” and spreading misinformation. This is the third of what seems a coordinated attack of indignant letters and emails from people who don’t care for transparency. He claimed that citizens asking questions of government is not something Robert Morris would approve of. He believes Morris would tell us to sit down and shut up.

If you don’t know Oxford, Robert Morris is a noteworthy historical figure in our town. He has a historic inn named after him as well as our main street. Robert Morris was called the “financier” of the American Revolution. One interesting fact about him is that he originally didn’t want to fight the British. A successful, wealthy businessman, Morris tried to bridge calls for independence with those who were in favor of neutrality and petitioning the King. He didn’t even want to sign the Declaration of Independence. He eventually discovered that the only way to address the tyranny of King George and Great Britian would be to join the Revolutionaries, sign the declaration, fight back and finance the Revolutionary War. He went on to become a critical figure in the young government and was a signer of the Constitution. Without him, the Revolutionary War would not have succeeded.

In other words, he asked questions and made demands of the British and Colonial Government as did the other Founding Fathers. He fought back against the constant lies, repression and tyranny of an unresponsive set of rulers.

Sound familiar? Sound like what the citizens of Oxford are doing? Yeah, it does to me too.

I pointed this out in a response to the letter during public comment. I reminded the writer, the other citizens, and the commissioners, that asking questions is NOT divisive, even if the status quo crowd and town office want to call it that. I stated that we are not interested in getting people in trouble or fired without cause. We WANT TRANSPARENCY, ethical behavior and truth. I reminded everyone that our actions are exactly what Robert Morris and the rest of Founding Fathers did and would tell us to do. It’s how they founded this country. They encouraged a vocal, active citizenry that came from all stations of life, not just those who historically held power. They encouraged people to fight for the right to speak freely to our leaders. They knew there would necessarily be passionate disagreement. As George Washington said, “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.”

That quote leads back to the initial question. What are the elitists and town office of Oxford trying to keep from the light? It seems odd that a small group of people would fight so hard to keep information hidden from other citizens and to allow the Commissioners/town office to consistently ignore and subvert the policies and procedures of the town. One wonders if it is because they have received some benefit from allowing these actions to occur. Maybe they are reaping the benefits of “business as usual” from the town office. It could be a permit given where others wouldn’t get one, a promise of no speed/drunk driving enforcement outside a bar/restaurant, or actions that favor some citizens over others. Maybe they want the decisions of the past kept secret. Or maybe they desire placid compliance, regardless of the ultimate price.

Or maybe it is something bigger.

None of us know. But that doesn’t mean we should stop asking questions of our public officials, elected and/or hired. Getting real answers is the only way to regain trust.

Robert Morris and the rest of the Founding Fathers would tell us NOT to stop.

As Benjamin Franklin said, ” It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” Ben didn’t say that so it could be a bumper sticker. He said it so people would remember our duty as citizens.

We are working hard to fulfill that responsibility. Even when some people don’t like it.

Update: an acquaintance of mine wrote to say, “Morris made money, the only freedom he cared about was freedom to profit. He sold as much to the British as he did to the Americans. Just an ordinary merchant.” I really appreciated his comments.

That is probably true. However, in the end, he played a major role in the creation of this country, regardless of his motives. And, after all, many of us speaking up are “just ordinary citizens.” Not judges, not architects, not bankers etc.

Related Stories:

Does Oxford Need To Do A Forensic Audit? – Easton Gazette

Town Of Oxford Ignores Seven Years Of Financial Auditor’s Concerns – Easton Gazette


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Maryland Blueprint School Funding Creates Separate And Unequal

By Jan Greenhawk

November 14, 2023

This article was originally published on eastongazette.com

As the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future rolls out into its second full year of implementation, a horrible truth is coming to light. The funding formula set up for schools blatantly values some students over others.

Despite the Supreme Court finding in 1954 that “separate but equal” is unconstitutional, the State of Maryland wants to reinstate the idea via Blueprint funding.

In the past, counties were given funds for schools via a funding formula that factored in economic status of the county and how many students were enrolled in the district by September 30. For example, in 2016, Talbot County was 24th in the State for per pupil funding provided by the state based on the fact that the county was considered wealthy. Baltimore City, a poor district, was top in per pupil funding provided by the state. Counties like Talbot had to make up the difference between the state portion per pupil and their actual needs. Baltimore City and other poor districts had to do considerably less of the heavy lifting.

The funding was uneven from district to district. But local school boards and Superintendents could determine internally what funding would be and how to spread that money throughout their schools based on what schools needed. They had to show the state how they would spend funds and then were accountable to the state for student outcomes. They could also distribute staff in the schools as they saw fit:

The Old Model

Under the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the funding will be not only be different from district to district, but from school to school based on state formulas, not local needs. The funding for the nine areas listed below will be determined by the Blueprint formulas, not local input. No longer will locals report and be held accountable for just district level student outcomes but will have to present the funding and outcomes by STATE mandated category in each school.

While making districts accountable for each school in their system is not a bad thing, the Blueprint will give the locals NO control of how to make these schools successful. Many good, effective programs will be defunded and discontinued.

In the new formula, some students are worth more state aid than others. Each district starts out with a base dollar amount for students, $8642.00 per student as determined by enrollment on September 30. This is called “foundation” money. After that comes the “add-ons.” Each struggling K-3 will get an additional $665.00 per student. The term struggling is defined by criteria determined by the State. Special Education students gain systems the base amount plus an additional 86% of the base amount added on. An English Language Learner is the base amount plus 100% of the base amount added. Finally, Free and Reduced Lunch Students are worth base amount plus $6232.00 added. Students can qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch if their family earns 300% of the Federal Poverty Level.

The chart below shows how this will work:

One can see that School A with more students will get less money than School B which has fewer students. And it’s not just a little less, it is substantially less. As the Anne Arundel Schools Superintendent stated in his explanation, children are now entities that “generate dollars” based on their demographics. This is not only a structural change, but an alarming difference as to how we view students. They are commodities.

Let’s translate this into reality. The local district will have difficult decisions to make. With limited financial and staff resources, they will have to pull staff and programs out of School A and put them into School B regardless of the number of students in each. The chart below shows how the smaller school will have more staff and therefore will have a larger average expenditure per teacher in salary. Again, this will not be determined by the locals, but by the state. The State will not care how many teachers are in a given school, the state will want a certain amount of money spent on staff in that school.

This will lead to more problems than uneven class sizes and staff shortages in some schools. Teachers and staff will be moved around like pawns on a chess board in order to meet state mandates determined by the demographic of the students who are in each school. More experienced teachers with higher salaries may be moved to schools based solely on the fact that they are needed to meet the average salary required by the Blueprint. The opposite will happen with new teachers with lower salaries. Teachers won’t be moved based on their level of expertise, but on how much money they make.

Another complication is that the funding per student in a school will change if students leave one school to go to another.

In other words, there will be no continuity of staff in schools and year to year budgeting will be a nightmare. And, let’s not forget that many systems are already short staffed.

In an effort to warn his district’s Board of Education and parent population, Anne Arundel County Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski presented the information in the slides above but also other information to show not only how this would affect schools but staffing expenses and financial accounting processes in the county. Currently, systems across the state are preparing budgets without knowing the rules. The projected timeline is shown below:

The Blueprint is not just a concern for one county. On August 19, Carroll County School Superintendent Cynthia McCabe explained to parents that they were “not going to like the changes” the Blueprint would cause in their schools. As a consequence of the new funding formula, schools that were successful would lose staff, funding and programs to other county schools based solely on student demographics, causing large class sizes, fewer teachers, and undoubtedly lower achievement in schools that were doing well. Again, the students become a source of funding, not children in need of education. If the goal is system wide mediocrity, they will achieve it.

Other Superintendents have voiced their concerns over the cost of the Blueprint, the loss of local control of decisions, and the “one size fits all” design of the initiative.

Some will say that this is okay. Why shouldn’t schools with more poor students, English Language Learners, etc. get more resources? The fact is that in most cases they are already. With the exception of large City school systems like Baltimore City and Prince Georges’ County, most systems in the state are addressing the issues of economic, demographic, and special needs subgroups via local programs and funding decisions. Frankly, the disaster in these larger school districts is that they have misallocated money in general and gotten very little return. For the most part, however, local boards want all of their schools to succeed, and they usually know what will work in those schools.

The Blueprint disconnects districts from solving problems in a way that fits their community. It destroys the opportunity for school district administrations to develop creative, dynamic ideas for schools to actually address the challenges of educating all of their students using sound, time tested educational practices while also looking for new, better ways to teach. Funding for those initiatives won’t be possible when the Blueprint dictates that funding be focused on others. Most of these dictates will be promoted by legislators who have no background in education and are merely passing bills to virtue signal that they care. Oh, and to spend those tax dollars!

As it is written, the Blueprint nullifies the needs for local Boards of Education and Superintendents by completely removing them from the decision making process.

It’s about State entities wanting full and complete control over schools in the State of Maryland so they can make sure that schools implement a new unconstitutional precepts separate and unequal. It’s not a Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. It’s a Blueprint for Returning to Maryland’s Past.

Video of Anne Arundel County Public Schools Board Meeting:



Jan Greenhawk

Jan Greenhawk is a former teacher and school administrator for over thirty years. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Maryland. She also spent over twenty-five years coaching/judging gymnastics and coaching women’s softball.


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Does Oxford Need To Do A Forensic Audit?

By Jan Greenhawk

November 12, 2023

This article first appeared on the Easton Gazette

We’ve heard it many times in the past three years. Every time there are questions about how money is being spent by government, someone mentions doing a “forensic audit.” Does anyone except lawyers and certified public accountants know what that means?

A forensic audit is different from a financial or internal audit. Financial audits are done to evaluate the financial health of a company or agency. Internal audits are done by companies themselves to find financial issues/problems.

Forensic audits are special audits done to determine if any financial fraud, misappropriation, or embezzlement has occurred. The forensic audit is done in order to support a court case not only for crimes but in financial disputes as well. Usually, a forensic audit is chosen instead of a regular audit if there’s a chance that the evidence collected could be used in court. The problems that trigger a forensic audit may not be major crimes but could be as little as padding expense reports, misusing public funds or conflict of interest. Forensic audits are done by specially trained auditors.

For example, if a manager allows and approves inaccurate expenses of an employee with whom they have a personal relationship that could be discovered and noted in a forensic audit.

Forensic auditors have skills that help them perform an audit so that facts can be presented in court.

Forensic audits are often expensive and time consuming as every detail must be investigated; all income, disbursements, contracts, payments, bills, etc. are examined to see if there is any wrongdoing. A forensic auditor can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 an hour.3 Financial audits either confirm illegal actions or confirm that no illegal actions occurred so they are well worth it.

Here are examples of problems that could be discovered in a forensic audit: (These are posted for informational purposes only and are NOT implying misdeeds by any Oxford town employee and/or official.)

1.If an employee is alleged to have misused their position for personal gains and caused the organization to incur a loss, a forensic audit comes into the picture. For instance, a manager who approves an employee’s excess/unwanted expenses due to a personal relationship may have some leverage over that employee. The manager will not benefit financially from this activity but could gain favor with the employee personally and professionally.

2. The head of the purchasing department approves purchases from a vendor that will supply material at a higher or lower cost than other vendors. Although the quality of the product is not good, the purchaser is getting some personal compensation (could be “in kind”) from that vendor.

3. An employee submits a fake bill using the company stationery or to show damaged or expired inventory and receives funds for or use of that inventory.2

Forensic audits are not always conducted because one is suspicious of crimes or dishonesty. Forensic accounting can be used to assess the work of professionals, including accountants themselves. The findings from this assessment can determine who has made critical errors (whether intentionally or not). Of course, if the need occurs, forensic audits can be used in court.

The initial question is if the Town of Oxford needs a forensic audit.

Every year for seven years, auditors paid to look over Oxford’s accounts have cited the need to prevent internal conflicts or other issues with accounts by splitting financial duties between two people in the town’s office. Every year, the Commissioners have said they can’t afford to do that even though staff was available to do the job in the town office and the fact that the Commissioners hired an additional staff person as a town “planner” during the same time period. The person hired is the daughter of the current town manager.

Auditor’s reports: Oxford Financial Reports | Town Of Oxford, Maryland (oxfordmd.net)

The need presented by the auditors was ignored. The Commissioners’ assertion that the town couldn’t afford an additional position isn’t true. Our current town planner makes upwards of $80,000 a year. And, in years past, the financial duties had been split between the Town Manager and another employee who still works in the town office. Why did that end?

Noting those facts, many in town find it troubling that the Commissioners, past and some present, have resisted fixing the problem. Leaving financial matters to ONE person in an organization, public or private, is an invitation for public mistrust and possible employee misdeeds.

The Commissioners’ resistance should trigger a forensic audit. For one thing, if there is no wrongdoing, a forensic audit could put people’s minds at ease a bit. It might also spur the Commissioners to implement a simple solution to the problem; reassign some of the responsibilities of staff in the town’s office. Certainly, the Town Manager and her daughter cannot be assigned to split financial duties. But Town Office duties could be changed to go back to the way things were run before the current Town Manager was hired. These are simple solutions and resisting them seems odd at best.

If there are problems, a forensic audit of the town’s books for the past decade would certainly find them. These might be issues that wouldn’t be discovered by regular auditors and finding these issues would help the town be more fiscally responsible and accountable.

Additionally, with all the millions of dollars from grants being managed in the Town’s accounts, a forensic audit would prove to those funding the grants that Oxford is serious about ethically managing funds.

If presented correctly, those who work in public office positions might welcome the chance to show how well and ethically they do their jobs! A clean forensic audit would do a lot to quiet rumors, innuendo, and allegations of unethical practices. It would also spur the Town Commissioners to adhere more to the guidelines, policies, and procedures of the town, something they have become reluctant to do lately.

So, should Oxford do a forensic audit? Yes. It needs to be done now, before it’s too late.


1.Forensic Audit – Meaning, Checklist, Importance, Examples, Types (wallstreetmojo.com)

2.7 Advantages and Disadvantages of Forensic Accounting – ConnectUS (connectusfund.org)

3.How Much Does a Forensic Accountant Cost? | HowMuchIsIt.org



Jan Greenhawk

Jan Greenhawk is a former teacher and school administrator for over thirty years. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Maryland. She also spent over twenty-five years coaching/judging gymnastics and coaching women’s softball.

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Oxford Citizens Have Until November 14 To Give Input On Financial Advisory Committee

By Jan Greenhawk

November 8, 2023

Debate on Two Proposals Reveals Factions in Town

When it was pointed out in a meeting in September that neither the Commissioners of Oxford nor the Town Manager/Treasurer have experience or qualifications to adequately manage the town’s millions of dollars from grants, Commission President Tom Costigan and member Katrina Greer each created proposals for an “Investment Advisory Committee” to help with that duty.

The two proposals have been posted at the Town’s website for citizens to look at and comment on prior to next week’s town meeting.

It’s not unusual for the town to assign various duties to different volunteer committees in the town. Currently, there are the following commissions: Board of Zoning Appeals, Board of Port Wardens, Historic District Commission, Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation, Election Board, and Ethics Committee. Memberships range from 9 members to three. All committees have terms that vary from 3 to 5 years except the Ethics Committee which, for some odd reason, has no date of appointment or term length for members listed.

Committee members are recruited from the town based on different requirements and are approved by the Commissioners.

The Financial Advisory Committee, according to both proposals, will review the Town’s investments and make recommendations to the Commissioners of investment opportunities for the town.

The differences between the two proposals center mainly on the number of members on the committee, what their terms would be, what information about the town finances they would have access to, and what the requirements would be for membership.

Number of members/length of terms: The proposal drafted by Commission President Tom Costigan suggests three members, each having terms of three years except for the first three members who will have staggered terms of one, two and three years. Greer’s proposal requires five members who will each have terms of two years.

Information access: While Costigan’s proposal requires the Town Manager to provide reports of current funds and investments of the town, the town budget, and expenditures, Greer’s proposal goes a bit deeper, giving the committee access to “all town financial information, both direct and indirect without restriction that is available to the public via a Public Information Act request.”

Eligibility of Members: In Costigan’s proposal, only registered voters in the Town of Oxford with training and experience in investment policies and implementation would be eligible for the Committee. Greer requires that only Property Owners be permitted. They would have to have more specified training in finance including professional certifications, advanced degrees in finance, economics or accounting, and/or seven years in a professional position whose primary responsibilities are for budget, finance, or investment decisions in a large governmental, commercial, academic or non-profit organization which has an annual budget or financial assets under management of more than $100 million.

Analysis: There are plusses and minuses to each proposal. Costigan’s is a much simpler proposal while Greer’s is more detailed in nature. As we have discovered in the last eight months, “the devil is in the details” when it comes to town government. Anything left to interpretation can potentially allow Commissioners and employees to play fast and loose with policies. When serving the public, it is important that everyone is on the same page. With a little editing and “cleaning up,” the details in Greer’s proposal would get the edge on specificity and delineation of committee responsibilities and rights. Our suggestion is to take Costigan’s cleaner framework and insert details from Greer’s.

As far as how many members the committee would have, we believe that the more people you can involve in this committee, the better. The idea of five members versus three prevents the appearance of giving power to a select few and will allow for a broader cross section of the town’s population to be represented.

The terms of the appointees should be no less than three years. Limiting the length of term to two years doesn’t allow for significant, in-depth work to get done. Other official committees in town have terms from three to five years (outside the ethics committee whose term is a mystery), so the precedent has been set for this committee to also have terms of no less than three years. While the staggered terms are interesting, it’s not clear what the purpose would be to pursue that option. Our suggestion is to have five members from Greers proposal and have three-year terms, non-staggered.

Costigan’s proposal seems to limit the information that the committee would have access to while requiring them to do a quarterly review of the town’s investments. However, without access to the full picture of the town’s assets, investments, and expenditures, the committee will not have a comprehensive picture of the economic status of the town. Greer’s proposal allows the members of the committee information that would be available via public information requests, which seems reasonable. Our suggestion is to follow Greer’s access allowance here.

When it comes to eligibility requirements, neither proposal hits the mark. Costigan’s plan wants to allow only registered voters with financial background to participate. Greer, on the other hand, suggests property owners only with extensive financial experience. In reality, in a town of 650 residents, the pool of possible participants should be more open. It’s our suggestion that anyone who is a registered voter, a property owner, or a verified resident of the town be eligible. This will allow someone who rents property in Oxford to participate, which will give some long-time renters a stake in the process. After all, those who live in the town have a vested interest in how town investments fare since their rent and water/sewage bills could be impacted.

When it comes to the duties and selection process, both proposals are identical, allowing the Town Commissioners interviews, nominations, and the duty to make appointments. Both require that applicants disclose any potential financial or business conflicts.

There is a third option which is to do nothing at all. Based on the input from people at town meetings, that option is not satisfactory considering that the amount of money that runs through the town coffers is in the millions. Also, auditor’s reports from the past seven years seem to indicate that more financial oversight and advice is called for:

Town Of Oxford Ignores Seven Years Of Financial Auditor’s Concerns – Easton Gazette

With such differences on the elements of each proposal, perhaps an ad hoc committee made up of citizens such as the one that created the town’s hiring policy would be the way to go. In that way, the citizens of the town are guaranteed a thorough and complete review of the proposals by citizens and a way to merge these ideas into one effective, working policy. It was an effective process before, why not now?

ADDITIONAL NOTES: While some are using this issue to promote and protect certain employees/elected officials and divide the town, others just want a reasonable, transparent process that will provide accountability and a solution to the issue of investment expertise and financial responsibility in our small town.

A recent email sent to some citizens by a well-known local real estate agent stated those looking for accountability are making allegations of “corruption and grift” in the town administration. This is patently untrue. Questioning the actions of elected officials and public employees is the ultimate check and balance on government whether at the local, county, state or federal government. When actions are taken that could be suspect, it is the citizen’s right to question those actions and demand disclosure.

The email stated that the small group questioning actions of the town had “personal grievances or a different version of what Oxford should be. Period.” Again, if questioning the actions of a public employee or official is “personal” then I suggest that the person who wrote the email should never question another public employee or official about how government is being run. It is a Constitutional right of the citizens “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” If he doesn’t want to avail himself of that right, so be it.

In fact, the “personal” attacks have come from those who want the status quo in Oxford. Members of our “small” group (which isn’t small at all) have been insulted and chastised for exposing the truth. We’ve been told our opinions shouldn’t matter and we should sit down, shut up and stop asking questions.

The writer says we want a different version of “what Oxford should be” from what he wants. If that means we believe our version of Oxford should be a town where public business is not hidden or limited to a privileged few, the writer is correct, our version is different. In our version no matter how many buildings one has built, sold, designed, worked on, etc. or how many county committees that person has been on, no matter how many fancy government positions that person has held, how expensive his house is or what his bank account holds, and no matter how long that person has lived in town, that person has no more right to state their opinions or ideas than the normal middle class working Oxford citizen who raised or is raising a family here and has lived here for fifty, five, or one year(s). The average citizen sees things going on and asks questions. Their questions demand respect and answers.

Our vision of Oxford is what it used to be; a place where we didn’t have to have these debates. The rights of the citizens were understood.

The two proposals can be found here:

Per the meeting, citizen comments regarding these proposals or the third option of “No Committee Needed” should be forward to oxfordclerk@goeaston.net for dissemination to all Commissioners prior to the meeting.  (WE SUGGEST YOU COPY THE COMMISSIONERS AS WELL TO ASSURE YOUR RESPONSES ARE RECEIVED)

Costigan-Investment-Advisory-Committee.pdf (oxfordmd.net)

Greer-Financial-Advisiory-Committee.pdf (oxfordmd.net)

katrinahgreer@icloud.com (Katrina Greer)

dc2ox4d@verizon.net (Tom Costigan)

sdel@hotmail.com (Susan Delean Botkin)

Thanks for commenting!!

Town Of Oxford Ignores Seven Years Of Financial Auditor’s Concerns

By Jan Greenhawk

November 5, 2023

This article can be found at eastongazette.com

Starting in 2016, the firms conducting Oxford’s financial audits have expressed concerns about how the town’s financial accounts were being maintained by the town office.

Yearly audits point out as a weakness in Oxford’s financial structure that the responsibilities of Town Manager and Treasurer were under the control of one person, the Town Manager.

From the last audit done on 6/30/22 by UHYLLP, Certified Public Accountants wrote this regarding the financial management structure of the town:

Finding Number 2022-001
Criteria: Proper segregation of duties should be in place to strengthen internal controls to
provide reasonable assurance that a material misstatement to the financial statements is
Condition: We noted that the system currently in place creates conflicts within duties assigned
to a single individual and produces a high level of internal control risk. During our audit, we
noted a lack of segregation of duties.
Cause: The lack of appropriately designed internal control systems has produced conflicts
regarding assigned duties.
Effect: Segregation of duties issues does not allow management or employees, in the normal
course of performing their assigned functions, to prevent, or detect and correct, the
misappropriation of assets and/or errors on a timely basis.
Recommendation: We recommend that, when possible, responsibilities for authorization,
recording, and maintaining custody of assets be assigned to different employees. In situations
where this is not possible, we recommend the implementation of certain transaction review
controls. It is important to note that review controls do not eliminate all risk when segregation of
duties conflicts exist, and management and those charged with governance need to be aware of
such risks.
Identification of Repeat Finding: Due to the nature and size of the Town, this is a repeat finding.

This is the same finding that had been stated in all audits starting in 2016. Yet, the town has not corrected the possible conflict and inherent risk by splitting financial duties between two employees.

Here are the findings from 2016:

Finding Number 2016-001
Criteria: Proper segregation of duties should be in place to strengthen internal
controls to provide reasonable assurance that a material misstatement to the financial
statements is prevented.
Condition: We noted that the system currently in place creates conflicts within duties
assigned to a single individual and produces a high level of internal control risk.
During our audit, we noted a lack of segregation of duties.
Cause: The lack of appropriately designed internal control systems has produced
conflicts regarding assigned duties.
Effect: Segregation of duties issues does not allow management or employees, in the
normal course of performing their assigned functions, to prevent, or detect and
correct, the misappropriation of assets and/or errors on a timely basis.
Recommendation: We recommend that, when possible, responsibilities for
authorization, recording, and maintaining custody of assets be assigned to different
employees. In situations where this is not possible, we recommend the
implementation of certain transaction review controls. It is important to note that
review controls do not eliminate all risk when segregation of duties conflicts exist,
and management and those charged with governance need to be aware of such risks.
Identification of Repeat Finding: Due to the nature and size of the Town, this is a
repeat finding.

In these findings “responsible officials,” (who are NOT identified), were quoted in both audits and all audits since 2016:

Views of Responsible Officials: It has been determined that it would not be cost effective for the
Town to add additional personnel to ensure complete segregation of duties in the finance
department. However, within the two-person finance department, the Town has effectively
designed and implemented mitigating internal controls to help reduce such risk.

Oxford Financial Reports | Town Of Oxford, Maryland (oxfordmd.net)

The town has not shared what the “mitigating internal controls” are that have been “designed and implemented.”

The actual actions of these “responsible officials” are at odds with what they stated about “cost effectiveness” since in 2021 the town spent approximately $86,000 a year to hire a “town planner” instead of hiring someone who is a CPA who could act as town treasurer. Hiring a treasurer/CPA would have alleviated the internal controls problem.

The Town Manager’s daughter was hired for the Town Planner position.

Apparently, the town’s priority was not in hiring additional finance personnel. The priority was not about splitting the financial responsibilities of the town to mitigate financial risk for the town.

One wonders what the priorities were and are.

The problem could be easily fixed now if some of the financial responsibility was split between current employees in the town office. That’s how it was done previous to the current Town administration. Of course, it would have to be someone else besides the Town Manager’s daughter to avoid a conflict of interest.

That could be by using the current Town Clerk to split financial duties with the Town Manager. That position shared financial responsibilities in the past with the previous Town Manager.

Another option would be to re-classify some jobs in the Town Office and assure that there is someone on staff who has a college degree and financial certification, for example a CPA who could share financial responsibilities with the Town Manager.

It’s been seven years of this being pointed out yearly by auditors. If the issue isn’t resolved, the potential is always there for inaccuracies, mistakes or malfeasance as the auditors stated.



Jan Greenhawk

Jan Greenhawk is a former teacher and school administrator for over thirty years. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Maryland. She also spent over twenty-five years coaching/judging gymnastics and coaching women’s softball.

Thanks for commenting!!

The War On Maryland’s Sheriffs

By Jan Greenhawk

October 31, 2023

This article can be found at eastongazette.com.

How are Maryland’s sheriffs different from other law enforcement agencies in the state?

According to Article IV, Section 44 of the Maryland Constitution, a sheriff must be elected in each county and Baltimore City. The section also specifies the term of office for a sheriff and imposes age and residency requirements on those seeking the office1.

The Maryland Sheriffs’ Association website states that since 1776, with the exception of a period between the War of 1812 and 1867, Maryland’s Constitution has required that all sheriffs be elected. In 1925, the General Assembly lengthened the sheriff’s term of office from two to four years, a change that remains in effect today2.

Also according to the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association:

Today, Sheriffs remain the primary law enforcement official in many Maryland communities. The state’s 24 Sheriffs and their more than 1,600 deputies are sworn police officers, graduates of certified police academies, and have the same powers as other Maryland law enforcement officials to make arrests and detain lawbreakers.

In unincorporated areas of the State, the Sheriff frequently provides all law enforcement services. In other jurisdictions, the Sheriff’s primary law enforcement duties may be limited to routine patrol and accident and criminal investigation.

However, even in jurisdictions where other organizations, such as the county or State police, have primary law enforcement responsibilities, Sheriffs retain their police powers. This means Sheriffs and their deputies will respond anytime, anywhere, they observe the commission of a crime or see a citizen in need of assistance.

A delegation of legislators in Frederick County wants to change the role of Sheriffs. Because Sheriffs are designated in the Maryland Constitution as state employees elected by the citizens in their counties, they cannot be removed from office except by elections.

The Frederick County Delegation, citing the recent legal problems of Frederick County Sheriff Jenkins, want to be able to remove a sheriff from office. Legislation is currently being drafted for presentation to the Maryland House of Delegates during the next session. The legislation would rewrite the Maryland Constitution and enhance the ability of counties to remove their sheriffs due to neglect or inability to carry out their duties due to an accusation.

While pushing this idea, speakers spoke about problems in other jurisdictions with their sheriffs, namely Harford and Montgomery County.

But there is a problem with their logic.

The reason Sheriffs are elected in Maryland is to assure each county has law enforcement that is subject to the will of the electorate. Every four years, sheriffs can be voted out by the citizens. This does not apply to State Police or even municipal police forces. Maryland has a checks and balance system between three different kinds of law enforcement entities. And, while they work together, two are accountable to state/municipal government and the other to the local voters.

Of course, they must all follow the law.

But sheriffs bring something different to the table. Within their agency, they have a laser like focus on the needs of their county. Since they are elected, they are more in tune with what their citizens need and want. They are residents of their counties, making them more invested in what happens there.

The Governor, States Attorney General and Democrats in the Maryland legislature seem to have a problem with that. To be honest, they seem to have a problem with ALL law enforcement. They have handcuffed them with sweeping “police reform” bills.

One section of the police reform bill creates a new statewide use-of-force policy and says that officers who violate those standards, causing serious injury or death, can be convicted and sent to prison for up to 10 years. The standard says that force can be used only to prevent “an imminent threat of physical injury” to a person or to “effectuate a legitimate law enforcement objective.”

The policy also says that force must be “necessary and proportional.” Police reform groups said that was a tougher standard than the traditional “reasonableness” standard, which they said was not sufficient for holding officers accountable for blatant acts of violence. 

Trouble is, no one can actually define what “necessary and proportional” is, making the standard arbitrary. Police officers won’t know if what they do during an arrest will get them convicted of a crime or not, forcing many to do nothing. Imagine being a policeman facing a violent person committing a crime, especially with a weapon, and having to decide in a split second whether to shoot, use a taser, take other action or just do nothing. No matter what you do, your actions will be reviewed negatively by a group of people who have never been cops and have NO idea whether your actions are “necessary or proportional.”

Or worse, you could have your actions questioned by people who have openly declared war on police. It’s no secret that the Police Accountability Boards in various jurisdictions are populated with people who have an axe to grind with law enforcement.

Which brings us back to this new proposal. President of the Maryland Sheriff’s Association Joe Gamble said about the proposed action; ” The Frederick County delegation to the Legislature is attempting to change the Maryland Constitution in order to remove a sheriff from office for being ACCUSED of an ethics violation or being ACCUSED of a crime. There is no such law that would remove a delegate, senator, governor for an accusation of an ethics violation or being accused of a crime. What’s next, changing our U.S. Constitution since citizens are presumed innocent until proven guilty? Will citizens now have the burden of proof to show innocence?”

The bottom line is, one person, one group makes an allegation against a sheriff and that sheriff could be removed. Sounds like a strategy those who wish to commit crime would love to use to remove an effective law enforcement officer.

For the past ten years, the movement to neuter, demoralize, and defund the police has been growing in the United States and particularly in blue states like Maryland. At the same time, crime statistics are sky rocketing.

If there are unethical sheriffs, the people in their counties will hold them accountable with elections. But, at the same time, people in all areas of the state realize the importance of our local Sheriff’s Departments in keeping them protected from those who wish to do harm to them. People also realize that if any law enforcement agency in their counties is going to fight to protect the Constitutional rights of citizens, it’s likely to be their sheriff’s department.

We need to return the favor by standing up for them.

Thanks for commenting!!

Town Of Oxford Reviews Economic Advisory Committee Proposals/Approves Special Election Amendments and Hiring Guidelines

By Jan Greenhawk

October 28, 2023

It was standing room only again at the October 24th meeting of the Town Commissioners meeting. That’s the way it’s been at every meeting since February of this year when the Commissioners announced the surprise retirement of the long-term police chief Pat Maxwell. Many people of Oxford were activated to get involved with town politics by that event and started to demand transparency and change in the town government. This is evidenced by increased citizen participation in meetings, elections, etc. and more opinions being stated.

Tuesday night was no different.

The evening began with the obligatory reports from maintenance and the police chief and approval of the minutes.

The minutes from a recent closed meeting on 10/12/23 and the workshop 10/14/23 along with meeting minutes from 10/12/23 were approved.

From there, the Resolutions 2310, 2311, and 2312 regarding special elections were approved/edited after lawyer Lindsay Ryan explained changes and additions. These resolutions were part of the recently passed referendum to require a special election to replace commissioners who leave office mid-term.

Ryan then reviewed minor changes to the recently discovered town financial policy that had been in place since 1996. The changes were made to update the resolution and remove references to old Maryland code.

In what could be classified as the most engaging discussion of the night, two different proposals were presented for the creation of a financial advisement committee for the town, an idea that was suggested during debate of how the town’s millions of dollars for projects could earn more interest in the Maryland Municipal Investment Fund than they were currently earning in Bay Vanguard Bank. The funds were moved to the MMIF. Many citizens were concerned that neither the Commissioners nor the current Town Manager had the financial expertise to make unilateral decisions on the town’s fund management.

Tensions in the meeting grew as Commissioner Greer reviewed the first proposal which had been discussed in a town workshop on Thursday, October 14. Greer explained that the town currently has 8 million dollars passing through the town coffers and she had hoped for a more collaborative meeting on the document during that workshop.

Appointed Commissioner Botkin complained that she did not have “fresh copies” on the night of the 14th and couldn’t possibly have collaborated using an old copy of the document. Greer responded, “I’m sorry you didn’t bring yours that evening.”

The differences of the documents were highlighted. Most centered around who would be eligible to be on the advisory committee. Costigan’s plan requires that members of the new committee are registered voters in town. Greer’s suggested voters and/or property owners and not just registered voters. Town manager Lewis said that although there is no restriction in the town chart regarding committee members, it’s been an understood “policy” that members of committees are full time residents of Oxford and registered voters. Research into these committees show that the town has placed unofficial restrictions on who can participate in decision making bodies.

President of the Commissioners Tom Costigan told attendees that the two documents would be posted on the town’s website ASAP so that residents could view them and ask questions. While Costigan and Greer encouraged public participation in the matter, appointed Commissioner Botkin wanted to approve Costigan’s plan during the meeting without further citizen input. Both Costigan and Greer said they preferred public input even if that would push the adoption of the committee to December’s meeting.

*As of the publication of this article, the two documents are still not available. Inquiries to the Town Office asking when they would be posted, were answered by the Town Manager: “I am attempting to update the website agenda at the moment. The next meeting is on November 14, 2023.”

It seems odd that in this day of electronic documents, scanners, etc. that it would be such a chore. We certainly hope they are up before November 14.

The last bit of business during the meeting was the adoption of a new town hiring policy drafted over the summer by a committee of residents. The policy was created after questions regarding the hiring of the current Chief of Police without advertisement and interviews for the position. The policy also attempts to remove nepotism from the hiring process a problem that was also discovered last winter.

Commissioners Costigan and Greer approved the document, while appointed Commissioner Botkin questioned whether the clause requiring applicants to disclose any family or business relationships with current town employees was “legal”. She referenced that applicants at her business were not required to disclose family relationships or medical information (which was not on the application.) She reminded the audience that Talbot County is a small area and that the likelihood of people being related was much greater than in large urban areas. Attorney Ryan assured Botkin that the clause only required disclosure and did not prevent people from applying and being hired for town jobs and that the policy did not mention medical disclosures at all.

The disclosure is for transparency, something the citizens of Oxford asked for repeatedly in many matters.

As soon as the two financial committee documents are posted, we will share and comment.


Appointed Commissioner Botkin came to the meeting wearing a headset which made her look and sound like she was running a fast-food drive through. If this is a new technology the town is testing, they may want to reconsider since meetings are held during what most citizens consider dinner time.

Former Commissioner Jimmy Jaramillo was present at the meeting, the first time he has been to a meeting since he did not run again for his position. He was quoted in the Star Democrat affirming his approval of Commissioner Costigan’s proposal.

Thanks for commenting!!

Progressive Operative Attempts Shutting Down Free Speech: Efforts Backfire

By Jan Greenhawk

October 13, 2023

This article appeared on the Easton Gazette at eastongazette.com

Robyn Sachs addresses the Maryland Voter Integrity Group at the Talbot County Community Center Wednesday night.

A progressive political operative tried to shut down free speech in Talbot County Wednesday night. He was unsuccessful. The event organizers prevailed after finding a new venue and persevering.

A bi-partisan event regarding election integrity with main speaker Robyn Sachs had been planned for weeks at Sts. Peter and Paul High School by the Maryland Voter Integrity Group. It was cancelled by the school a little over twenty-four hours prior to the event due to phone calls initiated by a local Facebook post. When canceling the event, the school didn’t give a reason other than the fact that they don’t host political events at their school. It took them almost a month to come up with that excuse.

This was news to the organizers since there had previously been no pushback from the school regarding the topic of the event. In fact, the school acknowledged via email that the tone of the event was bi-partisan and non-confrontational and confirmed that belief in an email to the event planners.

But, when someone stirs people up on social media by using lies and misrepresentations, low IQ followers will take action with threats and coercion to the venue. Here is the post in a group run by Len Foxwell. Len wrote the post:

Here are the rules of the group where the post was found. Mr. Foxwell is an administrator of the group but obviously ignores his own rules:

In his inflammatory post, Foxwell referenced the main speaker, Robyn Sachs, who investigates voter fraud of all kinds for Independents, Republicans and Democrats. Here is Robyn’s bio:

Robyn Sachs is the Chair of the Maryland Voter Integrity Group, dedicated to ensuring Free &
Fair Elections in Maryland. Additionally, Robyn has served as president and CEO of RMR &
Associates, Inc. since purchasing the company in 1987. She is well known and respected in the
business community for her insight and keen knowledge of marketing techniques. She shares this
enthusiasm at live speaking engagements and podcasts throughout the Washington, DC Metro
Robyn’s “Marketing Bootcamp” Seminars provide an interesting and educational high-level
view on the proper procedures to conducting a successful marking campaign. She is also the
author of Market to the Max. Complete with case histories, this easy to read, comprehensive
book takes the reader step-by-step through proven marketing techniques. This book is a valuable
reference tool in any successful marketing endeavor.
Over the years, RMR & Associates (RMR) has earned a reputation for aggressive campaigns that
produce measurable results for a diverse client base. In 2000, RMR was named the 10th fastest
growing PR agency in the United States and the fastest growing PR agency in Maryland by
PRWEEK. RMR has also been awarded the “MC Icon Award” for best branding campaign in the
country for their work with PSINet and an “ADDY Award” for the best commercial website by
the Ad Club of Washington, DC.
In 1998, Robyn was awarded the Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year Award.”
Additionally, the Washington Business Journal has recognized RMR as one of the Top 25
Advertising Agencies and Top 25 Public Relations Firms annually since 1991 and included
RMR in its listing of Washington’s Largest Women-Owned Businesses since 1990.
As further recognition as an industry leader, Robyn is on the Executive Board of the Washington
Business Journal’s Leadership Trust. As a member of this vetted community of the region’s
business influencers, Robyn contributes articles and participates in Expert Panels to build RMR’s
business and connect and collaborate with other top decision makers.

She doesn’t sound like a “far-right extremist,” does she.

When you dissect the Facebook post about the event, Foxwell uses phrases right off the Progressive, Marxist list of inflammatory terms; “far right, extremist election denier,” “disenfranchisement” and “suppress the vote.” He wanted to make the event into something it was not. Apparently, Mr. Foxwell believes that bipartisan efforts to keep elections honest and transparent are a bad thing. No surprise based on this story about his political history:

The demise of an Annapolis power broker – Maryland Daily Record (thedailyrecord.com)

Earlier this year, Foxwell attempted to get other Talbot County venues to cancel events he didn’t like. His efforts were impotent. This could have bruised his fragile ego, particularly since these events were run by women.

Of course, there are people who are more than willing to follow Len’s marching orders. There are organizations like Sts. Peter and Paul School and Easton Club East (the second secured venue that was canceled last minute) who are afraid of their own shadows and will cancel events because of complaints of a minority of callers. As someone said to me, these groups are so afraid of bad publicity they will just give in, even if it is the wrong thing to do.

Based on the success of the event at the third venue, organizer Shari Wilcoxon said, ” We had over 100+ people. Democrats, independents, and Republicans. It was a great event…lasted till after 8:30 p.m. because people were very engaged. I think SSPP missed a great opportunity to be part of leadership for healing and bipartisanship for Talbot County.”

Foxwell’s tactics, which are right out of Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, seemed to work until they didn’t. While it took extra work and time to find a good venue, the group accomplished their goal.

In the above self-congratulatory post, Foxwell can’t keep from lying and misrepresenting the Voter Integrity event and Robyn Sachs. By the way, is being a Republican illegal? Apparently, Mr. Foxwell thinks it is.

I think he spiked the football a tad early on this “victory.” He didn’t achieve his goal. In fact, he did exactly the opposite!

Why do I say that? Because the organizers of this event quickly pivoted to find other venues and found one that was twice as good! Not only that, but so many people who read Mr. Foxwell’s vitriol decided to attend the event that they had to bring in extra chairs. Over 100 people showed up. Political figures such as State Senator Johnny Mautz, State Delegate Tom Hutchinson, Sheriff Joe Gamble, Easton Town Council President Frank Gunsallus and Congressional candidate Chris Bruneau attended. (Councilman Dave Stepp was at a family obligation in Baltimore.) All local officials were invited.

Someone posted this graphic:

It’s very sad and somewhat terrifying that Foxwell thought canceling free speech was the thing to do. Freedom of speech is one of the main principles our Country’s founders. It is so important they put it as the first amendment to the Constitution.

One wonders what he is afraid of? If the ideas of the people presenting this event are so wrong, then wouldn’t he want them to be heard so he could prove them wrong?

The problem is that Mr. Foxwell and those who side with him don’t believe in freedom of speech. Many American disagree and cherish this sacred freedom. In his July 4th decision to defend social media platforms from being hijacked and controlled by the Biden Administration, U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty wrote:

“The principal function of free speech under the United States system of government is to invite dispute; it may indeed serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.” He added later in his defense of free speech; “American citizens have the right to engage in free debate about the significant issues affecting the country.”

While Judge Doughty’s opinion centers around government control of free speech, it is an important message to all of us that free speech, while sometimes controversial, is critical. As we debate important issues such as election integrity, protecting young children from indoctrination and pornographic material in classrooms, parental rights, medical freedom, etc. we will sometimes hear things we don’t like or agree with. It’s then up to us to argue our points with facts and reason.

Mr. Foxwell apparently wants to practice his right of free speech; he just doesn’t want others to do the same.

Maybe he finds listening to opposing ideas too intellectually taxing and difficult. He and those like him would much rather throw a temper tantrum and cancel events they don’t like. This time it almost worked.

But free speech won in the end.

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Jan Greenhawk

Jan Greenhawk is a former teacher and school administrator for over thirty years. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Maryland. She also spent over twenty-five years coaching/judging gymnastics and coaching women’s softball.


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Jan Greenhawk




Gary Judy

Gary Judy


 23 hours ago

Excellent article Jan!
Thank YOU



David Morsberger

David Morsberger


 23 hours ago

It was a great non-partisan event. I enjoyed discussing the information presented with everyone independent of party. Confidence in our election process and shutting down free speech are American problems, not party problems.

Organizations that give into fear and hatred using Alinsky Rules because they are “afraid of bad publicity” should feel it ten fold through peaceful and civil ways. Let the organizations know how we feel.

Last edited 23 hours ago by David Morsberger



Estrin' Shor' patriot

Estrin’ Shor’ patriot


 15 hours ago

Well known to Easton community, history of oppressive tactics and extremism social media activity, disruptive to sensible community standards. Everyone must be defensive of their own rights encroached on by these oppressive actions.



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Fear of Transparency: House Of Cards Collapsing In Oxford

By Jan Greenhawk

October 8, 2023

This article was originally posted on the Easton Gazette, eastongazette.com

It’s really amazing when the people speak up. Whether it’s a small town, a county, a state or even the federal level, the people in charge, those responsible for the house of cards they created, get very upset. They lash out at those who challenge them. In some cases, fancy big-time lawyers who live in town tell the people they are embarrassed that the great unwashed should speak up and ask for answers. In other cases, they attack the persons or people who are speaking up, even those in public office. Sometimes they ridicule newly elected officials for their lack of experience, as if being new in a position makes an official any less effective. In fact, we know the opposite is often true. Just look at the long timers in Congress. More on that later.

So it is in our little town of Oxford. We have two new commissioners in office in our town. One was elected by an overwhelming majority because people wanted her to do just what she is doing, asking questions. The other was appointed by the minority in the town who want her to do what she is doing, rubber stamping everything.

Because the newly elected Commissioner Katrina Greer is asking questions about town finances and demanding answers from a highly paid town manager who wants all the power but bristles when people question her, those who have previously been in power are now resorting to cheap shots against Greer.

Enter former Town Commissioner John Pepe in a letter in the Star Democrat. (shown below) Mr. Pepe is a fervent supporter of the Oxford Town Manager Cheryl Lewis. That’s his right. However, it brings into question whether he has an objective unbiased view of Ms. Lewis. That is troublesome considering his long tenure and influence as a commissioner who evaluated her work. Because Greer made comments about Ms. Lewis’s performance in a recent interview, Pepe says this “warrants a trip to the woodshed with the ethics committee” for Greer. What will be exposed that he is afraid of? Or is he just clutching his pearls because questioning of Lewis might implicate him in poor stewardship of the town as a commissioner?

Funny he should mention ethics, since many in the town have been saying that ethics have been violated. Not by Commissioner Greer, but by the Town Manager and possibly some recent Commissioners.

The last eight months have exposed some of the actions of the Town Manager in conjunction with compliant Town Commissioners of the past. They range from nepotism in the hiring of a family member for a well-paid position, protecting financial and other public records from the view of citizens, overstepping her duties, resisting the posting of ANY type of information regarding town affairs including employee salaries, and questionable personnel actions in the sudden, unexpected retirement of a long time Police Chief and the selection of a new Chief of Police etc. Many point out the micro-management of every department in town by the manager, including law enforcement.

The issue Pepe references in his letter is that Lewis claimed she was unaware of a financial policy that existed for the town until she suddenly found it a few weeks ago. The Commissioners were in the middle of the discussion about creating a financial advisory committee for the town and suddenly, out of the depths of the town archives, this policy appeared. Convenient and suspect from a woman who overtly claims to know everything about all town business all the time. The discovery coincided with Lewis’s assertion that the town keep millions of dollars in a local bank instead of a Maryland Local Government Investment Group account where the money could earn the town substantially higher interest. This is what prompted Greer’s comment on Lewis’s job performance.

Pepe attempts to alleviate Lewis of responsibility for knowing the old policy by saying it was created before she was hired, and she had no reason to be aware of it. If that’s the case, no elected or hired public employees or officials would never have to know and abide by laws and regulations that existed prior to their tenure. That’s not how it works, John. If it was, we would all be a world of trouble and the world would be even more chaotic than it already is. It was her job to know. Period.

He also claims the policy was never enacted, something that is disputed.

Pepe seems to take personal offense at Ms. Greer’s questioning of town actions, claiming that her inquiries “not only tried to sully the reputation of the town administrator but has (SIC) called into question the decisions of every sitting commissioner since the mid-90’s as well as every yearly financial auditor that has been involved with the town finances.”

If only Mr. Pepe was as concerned about the reputation of several other town employees who have had their lives turned upside down by actions of the town administrator and commissioners. It seems that “sullying reputations” is a tactic this town is not averse to using against others.

Bottom line is there is a big difference between stating a truth about an employee’s obvious mistake as Ms. Greer did and removing long time town employees and then spreading lies and innuendos about the reasons for their departures as the town office has previously done.

Better think twice about who needs to go to the woodshed and address the ethics commission Mr. Pepe.

As for questioning the decisions of every sitting commissioner since the 90’s, that’s a given. It occurs at every level of government in this country and about every public official. It has for over 200 years. That’s what our country is built on, a healthy questioning of ALL decisions by public officials and employees. Uncomfortable for some, but it’s part of a government built on the will of the people. I’ll continue to do it and I hope every other citizen will do the same, including Commissioner Greer, even if she has only been in office for eight months.

Maybe if Mr. Pepe, a former Oxford Commissioner with extensive experience, posed more questions when he was in office, we would know more about how our town was being run. Maybe some terrible missteps would have been avoided or at least handled more professionally. Maybe citizen complaints would have been heard and heeded. We will never know because he didn’t ask questions. He let his “friend” in the town office handle everything.

Mr. Pepe, as a former commissioner, if you take offense at being questioned, you should never have run for office. I know you are good friends with the Town Manager. While I thank you for your time in public service and I applaud your loyalty to a friend, people who object to open questioning of town officials and employees know there is something to hide. I hope that doesn’t apply to you.

Afternote: I saw a great video the other day of citizens in a meeting in Chicago. They were protesting the influx of illegals into their community who were being housed in local facilities thus taking their availability away from the tax paying citizens. The citizens were not happyHere’s a link:

Fed Up Chicago Residents Drown Out Mayor Johnson as He Pitches Colony for Illegals “You Work for Us” (rumble.com)

Oxford, take heed.



Jan Greenhawk

Jan Greenhawk is a former teacher and school administrator for over thirty years. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Maryland. She also spent over twenty-five years coaching/judging gymnastics and coaching women’s softball.


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